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The Substance of Fire (1996)

 -  Drama  -  14 March 1997 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.9/10 from 479 users   Metascore: 54/100
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Isaac Geldhart is a Holocaust survivor who, overcome by grief at the recent death of his wife, seems determined to run his publishing firm into the ground by printing books that have no ... See full summary »



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Title: The Substance of Fire (1996)

The Substance of Fire (1996) on IMDb 5.9/10

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Aaron Geldhart
Benjamin Ungar ...
Young Isaac Geldhart
Martin Geldhart
Tom McDermott ...
Old Printer
George Morfogen ...
Otto the printer
Isaac Geldhart
Cora Cahn
Mr. Otani jr
Edmund Ikeda ...
Mr. Otani sr
Miss Barzakian
Val Chenard
Gene Byck
Ronny Graham ...
Louis Foukold
John Sullivan ...


Isaac Geldhart is a Holocaust survivor who, overcome by grief at the recent death of his wife, seems determined to run his publishing firm into the ground by printing books that have no hope of financial success. His son Aaron, who also works at the company, grows frustrated with Isaac's emotional decline and attempts to take over the firm. The resulting crisis involves Isaac's other two children, his daughter Sarah and his dying son Martin. Written by Jesse Garon <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Doing What Is Right... Could Cost Him Everything.



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »




Release Date:

14 March 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Substance of Fire  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$56,221 (USA) (14 March 1997)


$56,221 (USA) (14 March 1997)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Sarah Geldheart: Tell me the truth. Does anybody actually finish a book once they have formed an opinion of it?
See more »


Referenced in Showbiz Today: Episode dated 28 August 1995 (1995) See more »

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User Reviews

A must see...If you didn't have the chance to see the play.....
7 December 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This film is an excellent substitute. I cannot believe someone would post that the "öld guy should be put in an asylum"....obviously they have never had a family member with a serious illness; Ron Rifkin is very good as Isaac, the publisher being driven out of business by mass market mega-bookstores; He primarily publishes Holocaust and historical books of value; not paperback trash. Other films have addressed this issue, but not in detail, and with sensitivity.

Timothy Hutton, Sarah Jessica Parker and Tony Goldwyn play the children, who are each affected differently by the father's illness; Timothy Hutton is excellent as the younger son, whose father doesn't approve of his teaching profession. Sarah Jessica Parker, while not my favorite, is believable as the young daughter who has a flighty career as a children's show host. Tony Goldwyn is very good as the oldest; the son with a head for business, who is constantly at odds with his father (Rifkin).

I will not divulge the story, but suffice it to say that the dialogue is well-written, the story is not sugar-coated, and there is an excellent score by Joseph Vitarelli, which makes the audience feel touched by the story.

I wish films like this were more highly publicized than trash for cash Bruce Willis or Schwarzenegger movies.This film gives the audience credit for intelligence; and it makes me believe that there actually are talented filmmakers not just after the bottom dollar.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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